End of the road trip: Aussies drive less to save fuel

Most Australian motorists are driving less, ditching road trips and considering switching to an electric car to avoid rising fuel costs, according to new research. 

The Climate Council study, released on Wednesday, also revealed widespread support for the introduction of a fuel-efficiency standard in Australia to deliver more vehicles that use less fuel.

The survey findings come after Treasury figures revealed fuel prices had surged by more than seven per cent between July and September, and were expected to remain high due to volatile oil markets.

The Climate Council research surveyed 1150 Australians and found seven in every 10 were making efforts to cut their fuel and vehicle expenses, including changing their driving habits, cutting back on long road trips, and skipping vehicle maintenance. 

More than half of those surveyed also felt the introduction of a fuel-efficiency standard could help them save money, and just under half (49 per cent) supported the federal government's plans to introduce a standard. 

Climate Council advocacy head Jennifer Rayner said the results showed the rising cost of petrol and diesel in Australia were having an impact on households.

"Many Australians are doing it tough right now but they can see there are solutions," Dr Rayner said. 

"Every day we delay putting in a fuel-efficiency standard in place, Aussies are missing out on the three-in-one benefits of cheaper costs, cleaner air and greater choice."

A fuel-efficiency standard would set an emissions limit on the fleets of car manufacturers, encouraging them to import more low-emission vehicles to Australia and penalising brands if they failed to meet the standard. 

The federal government pledged to introduce the rule as part of its National Electric Vehicle Strategy, released in April, with a draft due for release by the end of the year.

Australia is one of few developed nations, including Russia and Turkey, that does not have a vehicle standard. 

Climate Council energy expert and former BP Australasia president Greg Bourne said the absence of emission caps meant Australian drivers were being sold less efficient cars than those available overseas, making rising fuel costs harder to bear.

"New cars sold in Australia use around 20 per cent more fuel than those sold in the USA," he said. 

"This is collectively costing us billions."

Petrol prices have risen substantially during 2023, with the Australian Institute of Petroleum revealing the average retail price of petrol reached $2.01 a litre last week, and averaged $2.03 a litre over the last 12 weeks. 

The federal treasury department said the war in Ukraine, supply constraints, and a weaker Australian dollar had contributed to price rises, and escalating conflict in the Middle East could see prices rise further.

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